Friday, May 6, 2011

If he be worthy... (of pop culture)

Star Wars amazes me with its ability to continually evolve our culture. Everyone, well, most everyone, acknowledges the deep impact that A New Hope made when it was released in 1977. Many, though, would believe that that is where the impact ended. I say thee nay! The Phantom Menace, also, made many lasting changes in our (pop) cultural awareness and created many changes within the movie industry, not the least of which was Lucas' insistence that TPM only be played in theaters with digital sound. That was the reason for the price hike in tickets when TPM was released as theaters scrambled to update their sound systems and cover the costs out of someone else's pockets. However, TPM is responsible for creating another cultural phenomenon: the midnight movie release.

And let me just say: "I'm getting too old for this sort of thing."

It's been a couple of years since I went to a midnight show, and, last night, I remembered why. And it's not just because I don't have the same stamina that I had a dozen years ago when TPM came out and I still wasn't 30, because I handled it better than the not-yet-30-year-old friend I went to the midnight showing of Thor with. I mean, I don't have that same stamina, and I'm feeling the lack of sleep today in a way I wouldn't have a dozen years ago, but, really, that's not the issue.

When TPM came out, -everyone- went to the midnight show. I don't mean that in the sense that everyone went, but Star Wars fans of all ages went. There were kids there. There were teens there. But, more importantly, there were adults there. Real adults. Not just college students. People in their 20s, yes, but also people in their 30s, 40s, and, even, 50s. It was calmer. More civilised. Not random and clumsy like midnight showings are today.

There has been a slow devolution to the crowd at these midnight things. People my age just, really, don't show up for them anymore. It's all kids, now. It's like some surreal kegger with no alcohol. Not that I've ever been to a kegger, but, you know, I've seen them in movies. People jumping over the seats. Throwing things. Being loud. I remember thinking all of this a couple or few years ago when Spider-Man 3 came out. How I was never going to another midnight show again. Ever. But midnight last night ended up being the only available time I'd have to go see Thor with my friend this weekend (it's a very busy weekend), and we wanted to see it this weekend, so we went to the midnight show.

Around 11:20 a guy comes in dressed as Thor. It wasn't a bad costume. He was the only one dressed up, but there is always, at least, one. The theater management chased him down and awarded him with 12" Thor action figure. We know, because he talked about it very loudly. He was, by far, the loudest person in the theater, in fact. And he proceeded to sit down right behind us. Him and his buds. Of which, one was a girl. Also quite loud. He and the girl proceeded to open the action figure and play with it and complain about the fact that it came with a sword. Not that the hammer wasn't there, but there was also a sword. I'm thinking "bonus" but they went on about the inclusion of the sword at some length.

Then... then it got really good. The guy started translating the runes on the hammer. You know, because he's an expert at that sort of thing. He determined that they had spelled some of it incorrectly. Not the runes, he said, but the English. Yes, they misspelled the runes so that the English came out wrong. And he knows, because he's an expert. And an English major. He stated that several times. I'm guessing because that gives him an extra ability to translate Norse runes.

I really, really wanted to laugh. At him. Not with him. But I was good, and I didn't. Because I do have a degree in English. A finished degree. Not an in process degree. Not that that makes a huge difference, but I do, amazingly enough, remember being 20 and being, well, full of myself. But I keep telling myself I wasn't that bad. I wasn't! For one thing, I'm sure I was never that loud. Of course, I'm not the kind of personality that dresses up for those kinds of things, either. Even when they're Star Wars.

Finally, the movie started! Mostly, they shut up. Mostly. At least, we were able to tune them out once we got involved in the show. Up until the point where the film went out of alignment during the climax, and they started yelling about it. Of course, they weren't the only ones yelling, at that point. It took the theater personnel almost 10 minutes before they fixed that.

Despite all of the... technical... difficulties, the movie was good. Not Iron Man or Spider-Man good, but good. Certainly better than The Dark Knight although I'm sure that that will be a very unpopular opinion (but seriously, have you ever tried to sit through Dark Knight a second time. If you can't sit through something on a second viewing... well, that just drops the rating). And Hemsworth was an excellent choice for Thor. I was impressed. I'm going to have to consider not allowing my wife to see the movie, since he does parade around sans shirt at one point. Ray Stevenson, also, was excellent. It was good to see the Warriors Three in the film.

Asgard has a great look. It's very Jack Kirby. Stan Lee makes his traditional cameo. There's a nod to Journey Into Mystery, the comic book in which Thor makes his first appearance, if you're paying enough attention to catch it. And it was good to see Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) get more play. Even Hawkeye makes a brief appearance, which was also great. Anthony Hopkins filled out the role of Odin perfectly, and he probably didn't even break a sweat doing it. Although he did lose an eye.

None of this to say that the movie didn't have some faults. There were some changes made to Marvel cannon that I can't bring myself to approve of. The main one, on the surface, was made for "story" reasons, but it wasn't necessary. If you're not a comic person, a Thor person, specifically, you'll never know, but it's one of those things that, as a fan, I have to wonder what they were thinking when they did that. Yes, it bothers me. But it doesn't affect the movie itself. The main flaw with movie is a bit of waffling with the character of Thor. He vacillates between being confused about Earth and seeming to not know where he is or what's going on to being very wise about Earth and the ways of man. It's like they couldn't decide which way to play the character and so used either of the extremes to fit the mood they wanted at any given moment. It would have been okay to have started at confused and ended at wise, but going back-and-forth doesn't really work.

I do wish I had gone to see it in 3d, though. Some of those scenes looked like they would have been amazing in 3d. But they keep jacking up the price difference between the 2d and the 3d, and they finally jacked up to where I'm not willing to pay that difference. At least not until The Phantom Menace hits theaters in 3d next February. And, possibly, Cars 2 this summer, because that's how my kids will want to see that.

At any rate, Thor shouldn't have the issues that Marvel has had with the Hulk movies. It's enjoyable. It's not deep, but it is a good romp. It places another piece of the puzzle for the upcoming Avengers movie, and it lays the groundwork for a sequel that should be able to go a bit deeper and do a bit more, so I think it was a great start to the franchise. Yes, I say franchise, because I will be very surprised if we don't get word soon that there is another in the works.

I hope you all enjoyed this pop culture edition. Remember, it stays crispy in milk!


  1. Fun post! I was working at a movie theater when TPM came out, and I remember the costuming--quite entertaining.

    My husband still talks about the midnight viewing of the third Lord of the Rings movie he went to see. It's like it's some kind of notch in his manhood (I hear it at least three times a year, "Man, I remember that LOTR show I saw---it went past three in the morning!"). I just roll my eyes now.

    I'm wondering how Natalie Portmans did in Thor~ I'm used to seeing her in smaller (albeit popular) movies.

  2. Oh, I'm not even going to go into just how many midnight shows I've been to. You can just assume that I saw all three prequels at midnight and all three LotRs at midnight. Beyond that, you'll have to guess.

    Portman was okay. It wasn't a part that required much, and they just used her for her name. Anyone could have played that part. Kat Dennings was much more entertaining.

  3. I don't know if I can lose Qui-Gon all over again on the big screen let alone in 3D *sob*.

    Andrew, did you ever get to see any of the original 3 on the first day? I got to see ROTJ the first night it was out (dad stood in line for 3 hours the day before to get the tickets, one of the coolest things he ever did for us) and it was INSANE. We saw it in a theater that held 2500 people. All mad crazy excited to be there. So much love for Star Wars. When Yoda died, you could hear people sobbing. When Jabba's barge went up, the cheers were deafening.

    When an ewok died, my oldest sister (not the biggest sci-fi fan in the world) said "Well they had to kill one or it wouldn't have been realistic."

    Good times. I love hearing you talk about Star Wars. Reminds me again all over why I wanted to be the First Girl Jedi Ever at the age of six and still want to be one.

    Have you ever been to Tattoine Traders gift shop in Disney World (or on Star Tours?) I'm thinking you'd be in heaven. I could stand there all day just listening to the music.

    May the Force be with you!


  4. It's good to read a review, as we're going tonight at the drive-in. I haven't read the comics, so that issue shouldn't bother me, but I do know the feeling when something has been twisted from the original.

    As far as midnight showings, I've attended a few. When I was younger, I enjoyed the energy before the show and had fun with it. At this point, I'm cranky and just want to watch the movie. The hours don't bother me, as I have insomnia, but there's something to be said about being HOME when you're awake in the middle of the night. Haha. I did an all-night relay and a police ride along this year until 3:30am and I was fuzzy for a couple days before I caught up. zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    When I was managing theaters, we'd preview the week's new films after our night films ended, so we'd usually start them around 1am or so. There's nothing better than having an auditorium to yourself and people you know and eating and drinking whatever you want to. I miss those days! But I wouldn't be able to function at 7am the next day anymore.

    I'm looking forward to seeing Thor.

  5. I plan to see Thor this weekend. My daughter (she's 19) is a huge midnight showing fan. To me the movie needs to have an epic-ness (is that a word) to it to deserve or necessitate a midnight showing. Random movie midnight showings like Twilight? Come on! It needs to mean something. I disagree with your Dark Night comment I have watched it atleast a half dozen times and love it!

  6. bru: No, I was never able to see any of the originals on opening day. I saw A New Hope for the first time with my grandmother sometime during the summer after its release. The first for Empire was also sometime during the summer in Dallas with my cousins' family. My older cousin, Sam, exited the theater speaking like Yoda which was both awesome and infuriating (my voice hadn't changed, yet, and I just couldn't do it, then). Jedi was the worst, though. My mother taught the 7th grade girls Sunday school class at our church. She took -them- to see it on opening night and wouldn't let me go. I have no words for the horrible that was. I saw it the Saturday after the Wed. opening. Walked 5 miles with a couple of friends to make the first showing that morning.
    And I've never been to Disney anything. My kids went a couple of years ago with their grandmother, though, and they brought me a Stitch Yoda, which is hecka cool!

    Shannon: I had a friend in the mid-90s that managed a theater. The summer he was working in Shreveport (before he got transferred to a much larger theater in, like, Michigan or somewhere), I had an open invite to join him for their Thursday night previews. I saw a -lot- of movies that summer.

    Jennifer: Let me clarify my statement a bit, and I should have stated this more clearly above. My wife quit going to the midnight shows after LotR was finished. So, often, when I go to a midnight show that means I'm following up seeing that same movie within the next day or two with her. Generally, this has not been an issue. I saw Iron Man 3 times opening weekend, and I liked it just as much on a 3rd viewing as I did on the first. However, seeing Dark Knight a second time during opening weekend was very difficult. I'm sure I could watch it, again, now, but it had no immediate re-watchability, and, for me, that detracts from the movie. I was glued to my seat the first time, but quite bored the second.